Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
Having lost the first two games of the Aiwa Cup, I expected a more determined Indian team in the next two games. However that was not to be, at least not the whole side. During the game v/s Australia it was the batting that failed miserably while chasing a reasonable total of 253 to win - a batting display bordering on the ridiculous.
Ajay Jadeja (substituting for the injured Sachin) chose to field first, perhaps because India lost the first two games batting first. It looked a bad decision at the half way stage with Australia well in command. Gilchrist smashed 77 off just 84 balls and Symonds continued his good form with 45 in 60 balls. After Gilchrist was dismissed at 150 in the 27th over, Australia lost their way due to some fine bowling from Srinath and Prasad . A final total of 252 for 8 in 50 overs seemed 30 runs short of what was expected at the half-way stage.
India began their reply disastrously. By the fourth ball Saurav was back in the hut, caught at first slip by Shane Warne, a dreadful shot immediately after having smashed two boundaries in the first three balls. He hung his bat outside the off-stump, a serious flaw, and I'm certain that McGrath has filed away that weakness of Saurav for India's "Millennium Tour" of Australia.
If that was a bad start, worse was to follow. Khurasiya was sent in before Rahul and for the life of me, I don't understand why. He has all the unnecessary movements you can possibly think of before the bowler delivers the ball. His back leg moves... towards leg stump, his front foot forward and towards the off stump! With footwork like that he is bound to struggle against quick stuff. I still cannot believe that nobody from the team management has spoken to him about it. Another point to strengthen my case for a more professional coach.
Khurasiya played a couple of cracking shots for boundariesbut his luck soon ran out. He dragged a ball from Gillespie back onto his stumps and India were 31 for 2. This soon became 32 for 4 as both Rahul and Jadeja got ducks. Dravid is having a lean patch which is quite natural for any batsman and let's hope he regains the golden form of three months ago in England.
I feel the idea to have such an important batsman start a game as the first choice wicket keeper needs to be looked at. There is no point in playing an extra batsman of half the calibre of Dravid if keeping wickets is going to affect his batting. He is a specialist and must be treated like one.
Jadeja followed leg before to McGrath who is having a whale of a time against India starting with the World Cup. Vinod Kambli who would have walked away with the worst fielder's award didn't do any better with the bat. He hung it out to dry and was predictably caught behind by Gilchrist of Gillespie - 44 for 5 and looking straight down the barrel of defeat.
Watching the carnage from the other end was Ramesh who grabbed his opportunity with a well-compiled 71 and along with "ice man" Robin who is never flustered in such situations, he added 123 for the 6th wicket. This helped India reach a respectable total of 211 and give them a chance of entering the final provided they beat Sri Lanka convincingly. Robin made 75, a similar knock to the one he played against the Aussies in the World Cup.
I must say that Ramesh's temperament has to be admired. Critics are quick to point out flaws in his footwork as an opening batsman but he has been very consistent when given the chance. He played Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar with great confidence (not to forget Saqlain who bowled beautifully) in his first series. Any series against Pakistan is a test for a youngster and Ramesh has continued the good work through Sharjah, The World Cup and now in Sri Lanka.
If he can settle down as an opener in the one-day game, it is probably not a bad idea to send Saurav in the middle order as he plays spin very well.
At the end of the game which India lost by 41 runs, it was clear that India had to beat Sri Lanka by a minimum of 25 runs if India batted first to qualify for the final on net run rate.
Australia 252 for 8 wkts in 50 overs. Gilchrist- 77, Symonds -45, Prasad 2 for 29, Srinath 2 for 43.
India 212 all out in 48.3 overs. Robin Singh 75, Ramesh 71, Gillespie 4 for 26.
Man of the Match - Adam Gilchrist. Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAE1999
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.